What the hell is Gamification?

Another Guest Post written by Betty Adamou. Read more of the Game Access blog here.

If you are like most people you’ve probably arrived at this page in the hope of finally being able to understand what this word (which doesn’t quite sound like a real word) ‘Gamification’ means and are wondering why you’ve started to hear about it almost out of nowhere.

The word Gamification has been bandied around massively and even more so in the last 6 months as increasingly the ‘masses’ hear about it through mainstream media.

We have amazing advocates pioneering Gamification like Jane McGonigal and her great book ‘Reality is Broken’ and Jesse Schells work which has put Gamification in the limelight, as well as many businesses, consultancies, organizations etc developing Gamification departments seemingly overnight. It seems, from nowhere, Gamification swarmed in like a hurricane, took over and left us dazed and confused. We’ve heard we need to follow that hurricane, but just don’t know how and why we should. And we’re always scared and wary of the unknown. That’s just human nature.

Although Gamification is a ‘buzzword’, it is a buzzword for a reason. In my opinion Gamification is not a fad or ‘phase we’re all going through’. Gamification is a concept with real integrity and value which is academically sound and let’s face it, fun.

Before going into what Gamification is, I would like to dispel what Gamification is not. It is not:

  • Making fonts bolder, brighter and more ‘cool’ or
  • Using different coloured fonts. Nor is it
  • Using more images in a brochure, advert, website etc. or
  • Giving out real or virtual ‘badges’ for the sake of it.

While doing the above can certainly make your media more aesthetically pleasing, it is merely cosmetic. Gamification focuses on engagement and holding that engagement for longer and utilising peoples strengths and creativity.

Wikipedia posts up an interesting account of what Gamification is, which I tweeted about not too long ago. (The bit about surveys being boring, to make a point to the Market Research industry.)

“In behavioral economics, gamification is the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications (also known as “funware”), particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. It also strives to encourage users to engage in desired behaviors in connection with the applications. Gamification works by making technology more engaging, and by encouraging desired behaviors, taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming. The technique can encourage people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, or reading web sites.”

The part in bold there ‘taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition’ is the crux of Gamification.

In Jane McGonigals book ‘Reality is Broken’ she says:

“(Games) can teach you about your true self: what your core strengths are, what really motivates you and what makes you happiest.”

In her book she talks about ‘fiero’ which is an Italian word for pride. She says: “Fiero is what we feel when we triumph over adversity…(it is) one of the most powerful neurochemical highs we can experience.”

This feeling of fiero is what game designers try to perfectly create and part of what we can all draw upon with the Gamification of well…anything. Insurance, sensitive healthcare subjects, monotonous work procedures…you name it, Gamification can help it.

Gamify.com describes Gamification with a focus on collaboration:

“Gamification is the integration of Game Mechanics and game-thinking in non-game environments to boost Engagement, Loyalty and Fun! Gamification is the concept that you can apply the basic elements that make games fun and engaging to things that typically aren’t considered a game. In theory you can apply Game Design to almost anything including Education, Health, Work and more. Gamification at it’s core is about fun, rewards and social connections. It has the opportunity to connect people in ways never seen before.”

By Gamifying websites, services, research etc, what we are really trying to do is draw upon peoples positive traits and make them happy while they’re taking part in whatever the subject is, as they do while playing games. People as young as 11 are spending £45 a pop on Games, in order to sit for hours playing against a completely unnecessary obstacle and why? Because, ultimately, it makes them happy.

McGonigal goes on to describe the four defining traits apparent in all games, which again, people try to imbue in their personal lives and business practices in order to ‘Gamify’ them. By including these four mechanisms in your business practices, personal life, marketing etc you are using true Gamification.

“(All games have) a goal, rules, a feedback system and voluntary participation”.

In the coming blogs you will be able to read many case studies which show true Gamification being put into practice and these examples will certainly help you understand more about what Gamification is and its varying forms. We’ll show you evidence of Gamification from companies using it in its basic forms to companies who have spent literally thousands on new practices which use Gamification. These will be the more ‘extreme’ forms.

In one of my original definitions of what Gamification is in the context of research, (before I knew I would call my company Research Through Gaming) I described it as:

“Research Through Gaming is where a Company gains data from the actions a respondent takes while playing a computer game and the way they play the game itself”

This is because using Gamification/game mechanics can draw upon paradata and metadata to give companies information that they may not have necessarily asked for, but is there, it exists in a more ‘subconscious’ form and if used, can give the host company even more information about their customers, clients, respondents, viewers etc than what they bargained for.

As you will have seen just form this blog post alone, there are people who describe Gamification with a focus on collaboration, some with a focus on the potential for drawing on the psychological and some with a focus on the literal copying of the fundamentals of game play mechanics.

Ultimately though, Gamification includes all these things. It can easily be dismissed by sceptics, like aesthiests in the face of a religious festival, but people using Gamification are just trying to do something they think is good, for the better. To make us as interested in the real world, work and life in general as we are in games. To give us the same feelings of accomplishment and pride and use the skills, intellect and creativity we have which sadly, many of us don’t use. Without sounding like I’ve just won a beauty pageant, all the advocates of Gamification want is world peace and happiness and Gamification is one way that they’re trying to do bring that about.

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